Tag: Henrik Lundqvist

Henrik Lundqvist

Rangers’ biggest question: Can Lundqvist avoid a decline?


Every now and then, we need to remind ourselves that Henrik Lundqvist is, you know, human.

Sure, he looks ageless, and his stats always seem to shine (even amid an up-and-down 2014-15 season).The New York Rangers have gone as far as the stellar Swede could take them for about a decade now, so some probably think his greatness is as inevitable as death and taxes.

The truth is that he’s not infallible, and at 33, you have to wonder if a decline is coming.

Granted, people have been pondering a possible drop-off basically from the moment that he signed that massive seven-year, $59.5 million extension in 2013. Blogger-turned-Carolina-Hurricanes-employee Eric Tulsky provided a great breakdown back then, yet even he seemed to struggle in forecasting Lundqvist’s future.

Blueshirt Banter said it well while giving Lundqvist a B+ grade for last season:

Father Time is undefeated World Champion. But based upon the above, I think we all need to quit our belly-aching about the imminent demise, or decline of Henrik Lundqvist. He’s got some more elite years hiding in that glorious head of hair.

Goalies are a tough nut to crack as far as predictions are concerned, yet that’s what has made Lundqvist’s dominance so daunting: he seems like the one guy you can count on to be great (if not elite). Year in and year out, he gets it done.

The problem is that the Ranger still lean on him too much. With all of their spending and the 2015 Presidents’ Trophy win, it might seem like he’s asked to do less, yet Lundqvist and Cam Talbot camouflaged a defense that was shaky at times last season.

With Talbot gone and Antti Raanta in his place, it’s possible that the Rangers are that much more reliant on Lundqvist. What happens if he suffers another slow start and/or injuries? What happens if his reflexes begin to dull?

Much like the question of decline, the hypothetical scenario of Lundqvist falling off is probably familiar to Rangers fans (who are seasoned at learning that the answer has always been “Nope, he’s still great”).

What happens if the answer is “yes” in 2015-16?

Under pressure: Derek Stepan

Derek Stepan

It’s conceivable that Derek Stepan wanted even more than he received from the New York Rangers, but a six-year extension with a $6.5 million cap hit still stands as an enormous deal.

The 25-year-old’s contract is worth a total of $39 million, and he’ll see his highest salary in 2015-16 and 2016-17, as the Rangers will pay him $8 million (and a $1 million signing bonus) each year.

When the deal went down, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton explained that the team wanted to lock up a big-time player.

“[You] want players who can play big in the big moments on the biggest stage — and there is no bigger stage than New York City,” Gorton said, via Blueshirts United. “Derek has proven he can do that.”

Well, now Stepan will face a different kind of pressure: proving that he’s worth the money.

Rangers history is littered with the shattered expectations of Rangers who ended up being cap catastrophes, something that once defined the tenure of long-time GM Glen Sather. On the bright side, the team’s had better luck when they shell out big cash to homegrown talent, most obviously with Henrik Lundqvist.

Stepan’s scoring continues to come along each season. Despite being limited to 68 games in 2014-15, Stepan generated 55 points, nearly matching his 2013-14 output (57 points in 82 games).

Stepan’s been a strong playoff performer, as well, and that will need to continue after some key personnel losses this summer.

One of those changes came in the retirement of Martin St. Louis, a situation that could be quite interesting for Stepan, his frequent linemate.

Stepan’s possession numbers were downright ghastly in 2014-15, but it’s plausible that some of those struggles may be attributed to his veteran partner’s decline.

The American forward is in the prime of his career, so he’s in a solid position to live up to expectations. That’s good, because they’ll rise in a big way with that big contract.

It’s New York Rangers Day at PHT

Henrik Lundqvist

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The New York Rangers.

The New York Rangers earned their third Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history with a 53-22-7 record last season.

New York then eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games of the first round and edged the Washington Capitals in seven games in the conference semifinals. However, Tampa Bay cut New York’s bid for a second straight Stanley Cup Final appearance short defeating the Rangers in seven games in the Eastern Conference Final.

Rick Nash led the way offensively for the Rangers scoring a career-high 42 goals and 69 points in 79 games. Center Derick Brassard also had a career year notching a personal best for goals (19) and points (60).

In what was his final NHL season, Martin St. Louis reached the 20-goal plateau for the 10th time in his career. The 40-year-old announced his retirement in July.

In goal, Henrik Lundqvist went 30-13-3 while posting a 2.25 G.A.A. and a .922 save percentage in 46 appearances. Despite missing 25 games due to a vascular injury, the 33-year-old finished fifth in Vezina Trophy voting.

Cam Talbot took over in Lundqvist’s absence. The 28-year-old finished the season with a 21-9-4 record to go along with a 2.21 G.A.A. and a .926 save percentage.

Off-season recap

It was a busy off-season for the Rangers.

After 15 years as the general manager of the Rangers, Glen Sather stepped down in July and handed the duties to Jeff Gorton.

On the ice, the Rangers dealt Talbot to the Edmonton Oilers and filled his spot with Antti Raanta.

New York also acquired Emerson Etem from the Ducks for Carl Hagelin on the second day of the NHL Draft.

Earlier this month the Rangers added depth at center inking free agent Jarret Stoll to a one-year deal.

The Rangers also took care of their own.

Restricted free agents J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast got new deals and Derek Stepan avoided arbitration signing a new six-year $39 million contract.

James Sheppard, who scored two goals and registered nine penalty minutes in 14 games after being acquired from the San Jose Sharks, remains unsigned.

Several Rangers are still recovering from injuries suffered last season.

Brassard had wrist surgery in late June and was expected to require four-to-six weeks of recovery time. Captain Ryan McDonagh, who led all Rangers’ blue liners with 33 points in 71 games last season, is still recovering from a broken foot suffered in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Mats Zuccarello has been cleared to resume skating and have contact after taking a shot to the head from McDonagh in Game 5 of the Rangers’ first round series against the Penguins.

Mackenzie Skapski is still recovering from off-season hip surgery.

Talbot knows he has a ‘great opportunity’ in Edmonton

Cam Talbot

Not that anyone expects the Edmonton Oilers to win the Stanley Cup next season. But at the very least, with Connor McDavid, a new coach in Todd McLellan, and a few other tweaks, there’s pressure for them to be much better.

Cam Talbot will shoulder much of that pressure. The 28-year-old goalie that the Oilers got in a trade with the Rangers is expected to battle Ben Scrivens for the starting job next season. Another goalie, Anders Nilsson, is in the mix, too.

“It’s definitely an exciting time for this organization to get a generational player like everyone’s been saying like Connor,” Talbot said, per NHL.com.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity for me here, to be able to come in and work with a good young group of guys and obviously a group that’s headed in the right direction.”

Goaltending was once again a major issue for Edmonton last season, despite the club’s best efforts to fix the problem with Scrivens and Viktor Fasth.

And let’s not forget that Talbot has only started 53 NHL games in his entire career. Though his numbers are impressive in that small sample (.931 save percentage), it’s like Craig MacTavish once said, “I think anyone who tells you they’re sure about the performance of their goaltenders based on a relatively small sample size, is not likely accurate.”

In Talbot’s favor, he’s been able to watch one of the best in the game go about his business.

“Getting to play behind a guy like [Henrik Lundqvist], you learn a lot and you get to see what it takes to be a No. 1 [goalie] in this league,” he said.

Here’s a chart that shows which teams have been good/bad at drafting

Chicago Blackhawks v Columbus Blue Jackets

Via TSN.ca’s Travis Yost, here’s a chart showing draft success (or lack thereof) for all 30 NHL teams:


A team that’s done well at drafting will be in the top right. A team that hasn’t will be in the bottom left.

To be considered a “successful” draft pick, Yost determined that the player would have to play 100 games in the NHL. He adds that sorting by other metrics, like points or time on ice, yields “similar results.”

Yost was focusing on the New Jersey Devils’ lack of success in the draft; hence, the bold.

Now, obviously, a team like Columbus (which the chart shows has done well at drafting) is going to have an advantage in the first three rounds over a team like Vancouver (which hasn’t), since the Blue Jackets had much higher picks than the Canucks enjoyed from 2000-2012.

In fact, the Jackets had 11 top-10 picks over those 13 years, including Rick Nash going first overall, along with notable busts Gilbert Brule, Nikita Filatov, and Alexandre Picard. The Canucks, meanwhile, never drafted higher than 10th.

Of course, that doesn’t excuse Vancouver’s inability to find players in the later rounds. The last “successful” players the Canucks took after the third round were Mike Brown, who was a fifth-round pick back in 2004, and Jannik Hansen, who went in the ninth round that same year.

In contrast, the New York Rangers have been extremely successful in those later rounds, having identified the likes of Henrik Lundqvist, Marek Zidlicky, Ryan Callahan, and Carl Hagelin as worthwhile gambles.